WAC Assignment Highlight

Professor: Sandra Cheng

Course: Survey of Art, ARTH 1103-6415 (https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/arth11036415f2012/)
Assignment: Student Blog (https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/arth11036415f2012/readings/)
Students are required to write a minimum of 10 blog posts over the course of the semester. Professor Cheng posts topics each week, and students respond, lending their insights, making connections, and reflecting on ideas from the course readings, lectures, and activities.
What WAC principle(s) does this assignment exemplify?
Professor Cheng’s student blog is a great example of the WAC principle of ‘writing to learn.’ The blog functions as a informal, ungraded (just a check for completion) space for students to use public writing to think critically about ideas, as well as make connections to personal experience, other readings, lectures, and activities. Furthermore, Professor Cheng’s blog assignments engage students in multimedia and a variety of discourses, such as websites, scholarly articles, visual art, videos, and news reports.
How might this type of assignment be used in other courses across the curriculum?
Other courses could consider using a blog to provide a space for informal ‘writing to learn’ assignments beyond the face to face classroom. For instance, a psychology course could use the blog to have students reflect on various experiments and case studies, or short written responses applying theories to youtube clips where psychological theory is reflected in popular culture. An education course could use a similar blogging assignment to have students make connections between course readings on methodology and fieldwork experiences. Architecture students could maintain a blog describing urban design in different parts of NYC or their neighborhoods in particular; dental hygiene students could use informal blogging exercises to reflect on the representation of dental hygiene in popular culture and the media.

These kinds of informal writing assignments could be developed into larger, formal writing assignments like research papers, or as a reflective supplement to more structured assignments like lab reports.

WAC Assignment Highlight

Professor: Jonas Reitz

Course: MAT 1275

Assignment: Advice for the future

Students were asked to imagine that they were speaking on the first day of MAT 1275, and to give advice to the incoming students based on one of three questions.

The assignment was posted as a blog post, and students were asked to respond in the comments section of the post. For example, one student responded:

“First I’ll address number 3: I would say that a prior knowledge (ability) to have is PATIENCE and willingness to learn something that isnt particularly easy like trig. Math isnt for everyone, not all of us are going to grasp it the first or second time around; however, if you have patience you will gradually begin to understand at least some of the material…”

For extra credit, students had the option of  responding to someone else’s comment, indicating whether they agreed or disagreed, and if they had anything to add. Many students took this option, generating a nice discussion.

What WAC principle(s) does this assignment exemplify?

This is a terrific example of using an unconventional audience, in this case other students just entering the course, to encourage students to use their own voice.

Students are often accustomed to the professor being their sole audience, which sometimes hinders them from fully explaining or elaborating on course material. They may also feel stifled by academic jargon, and use overly formal language, that does not allow them to get comfortable with the material in a way required to explain it to others, or to better understand it themselves in more everyday terms.

It is also a great example of asking students to use exploratory and personal writing, reflecting on their experiences and feelings about the course. This, again, encourages students to use their own voice, and allows them to get more comfortable with their learning environment.

How might this type of assignment be used in other courses across the curriculum?

This type of informal writing exercise could be used in any type of course.  There will always be advice that students will have to give to other students about the course they  just took, no matter the discipline.

The exercise could be especially useful in disciplines where writing has not traditionally played a big role, and in more advanced, i.e., upper level courses, where incoming students would particularly benefit from more guidance on how to meet the challenges involved in mastering the material.

WAC examples on the OpenLab

There have been so many great assignments posted on the OpenLab, and since the course privacy settings are set to public, we can browse through and share them. These are some that make good use of media, either through links or by embedding it directly in the site.

Art History (Humanities)

Sandra Cheng, ARTH 1103: Posting with art images: Prof. Cheng includes images of the artwork the class will discuss and elicits comments from students.

Sandra Cheng, ARTH 1100: Students posting with photographs: Here, students are writing posts and including photographs by the photographers they are studying.


Jody R. Rosen, ENG 1101: Responding to two versions of an image: I used to distribute copies in class, but I like how I can keep within copyright and still have students write about Saul Steinberg’s famous New Yorker cover and their own view of New York. I wish I could embed the images in the post, but that, too, would violate copyright.

Hospitality Management

Karen Goodlad, HMGT 1101: Tourism Video: Students imagined they were the concierge of a new hotel near Brooklyn Bridge Park and created videos to show guests some of the great features of the area.

John Akana, HMGT 1102: New York Times Dining and Wine RSS Feed: Students can follow along with current articles in their subject through the feed on the right-hand side of the site.


Jonas Reitz, Math 1275: Mathematical Treasure Hunt: Students were asked to find instances of particular terms they studied in class, such as parallel and perpendicular lines, parabolas, or repeating patterns. They had to post an image of each and explain what the image represented.

Jonas Reitz, Math 1575: Infinity: Students reflected on their earliest encounter with the concept of infinity, defined it in their own words, and included a photograph or image that represented the concept.

Jonas Reitz, Math 1575: LaTeX: Students used the LaTeX plug-in and coded sequences to create beautiful mathematical problems. They could solve each others’ problems for extra credit. They offered advice to classmates unable to get their problems to appear properly.

Speech (Humanities)

Justin Davis, Speech 1330: Evaluating Speech Competition: Students watch uploaded videos to rank contestants, and then write briefly about the strengths and weaknesses of each speaker–which was done off-line in class.